Tag Archives: Flights

My Prague City Break – Part 1

Praha

If feels like ever since I began my life in Europe two years ago, I have been hearing about how beautiful, amazing and inexpensive Prague (or Praha) is. Naturally I added it to the list of places I wanted to visit. Finding a travel partner can sometimes be a daunting task, and for the most part I really do not mind traveling alone. However going with someone is usually the better, and certainly cheaper, choice. For females, it is also a much safer choice.

So last fall I found a travel buddy, my old flat mate Sahar, and we got everything booked for a 3-night stay in Prague in mid-October. In just a few weeks I was finally going to visit this city that I had heard so much about.

Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

The Flight

We chose to go with the budget airline, Wizz Air. It’s similar to Ryan Air and Easy Jet, and they mainly fly to Eastern Europe. Wizz Air flies out of Luton Airport, which is an hour north of central London so it’s not the most convenient airport to fly out of for some people. Still, the return flight, including fees and such was less than £100 per person.

The Hotel

As I am sure I’ve stated before, I’m not keen on hostels. Perhaps with the right group, on the right trip, for a couple nights, I could get behind it. This was not that type of trip. Prague has a number of inexpensive hotels, including a number of Ibis hotels around the city.

We chose to stay at the Ibis Old Town location, which I highly recommend. It was slightly more expensive than the other Ibis hotels in Prague (by £8 or $12/night), but we couldn’t have been in a more perfect location. Ibis is a ‘no frills’ hotel, but it’s clean, they offer free Wi-Fi, and the rooms are efficient enough for a 2-3-night stay.

Transportation

Prague has a good public transportation system, which you can find plenty of information about online. There are buses, an underground metro and aboveground trams. A 90-minute ticket was less than £2 ($3), and that is plenty of time to get from the airport to anywhere in central Prague. There are 1-day and 3-day passes, but everything is so close in the city that taking the metro or tram is not necessary.

As with many other countries, you must remember to validate your ticket when you start your journey, whether it is on a bus or metro. We used public transportation 2 of the 3 days we were there, and were stopped twice by metro officers asking to see our validated tickets.

Day 1

By the time we got checked in and settled in the room, it was time for some lunch. We eventually wanted to get to the Old Town Square so we tried to chose a restaurant from the ones I had researched before that was on our route. The restaurant we ended up at was called Touch.

Touch, like many good restaurants, is tucked away from the main road on a street that eventually led us right to Old Town. The waiter that greeted us at the door was nice, the specials looked good and the prices reasonable. We were in!

Asparagus cappuccino soup with truffle oil

To drink, the waiter suggested we try some Hot Wine, or Mulled Wine, to help us warm up. We decided to give it a try, along with the asparagus soup with truffle oil (£1.57/$2.50) as a starter and roasted rabbit leg with mashed potatoes (£4.85/$7.75) for the main meal. I rarely order soup at restaurants, in fact, I rarely have soup period. However the asparagus soup at Touch was so delicious that after I tried a little of Sahar’s, I decided to order my own.

Roasted rabbit leg with mashed potatoes

As seen by the photos, the meal was large and tasted just as good as it looks. The entire meal for two people, including tip, came to 550 Czech Koruna (£20 or $30). If you are ever in Prague, you MUST visit Touch. There is plenty of seating, the food was delicious, and best of all it was inexpensive. Our waiter was even nice enough to give us a card for 10% off if we came back.

Just be warned: they are closed on Sunday.

After lunch, we continued to make our way towards the Old Town Square, home of the famous Astronomical Clock. The medieval clock is the 3rd oldest in the world and the only one that is still working.

Prague’s Astronomical Clock

Anyone who has been following this blog knows how much I LOVE to climb to the top of towers and duomos. So when we found out that we could go to the top of the Astronomical Clock tower, I was very happy tourist. The trip up to the top costs 100 Koruna (£3.50/$5.50), and unlike many of the other towers, this one has an elevator to take you up. Given its location in the center of the town, the tower offers a beautiful 360-degree view of entire city of Prague.

The view from the tower

From the square, we continued heading west towards the river. We passed by a number of shops and cafes on our way, including a delicious chocolate shop and one of many marionette shops. Soon we had made it to the famous Charles Bridge. The bridge was bustling with people, painters and even a band! It is also a great place to snap a photo of the Prague Castle.

On Charles Bridge

To keep us entertained at night, we decided it would be fun to try a couple different options. The first night, we made a reservation at The Medieval Tavern. Located west of the river, the tavern offers food, drinks, and on Friday and Saturday nights, medieval entertainment. There are a number of ‘rooms’ (they are more like cellars than rooms) descending floor-by-floor deeper underground, each with a bit of unique flair.

Our Medieval dinner

The food is very traditional, the beer is cold and the entertainment is worth the money!For about £20 each ($33) we ate a medieval meal, drank 3 large beers, a hot wine and were treated to a different show every 20-30 minutes.

Enjoying a beer before the first round of entertainment

The entertainment included a belly dancer, a sword fight, a juggler and even some tricks with fire…

One of the entertainers – A belly dancer with swords

The final show of the night at the tavern

The Medieval Tavern was a fantastic way to spend our first night in Prague and definitely a unique experience. While the tavern is open during the week, the shows only take place on the weekend, and it’s highly recommended that you book in advance.

That’s all for part one of my Prague weekend. Stay tuned for part two (yes, I promise there will be a part two).

Ciao,

Sheila

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Travel Tip #3 – Before You Leave

Continuing the travel tips series, the following are tips for before you leave on an international trip.

Enjoy!

Before you leave…

1)  Who you gonna call? – These days most people have smart phones that make it much easier when traveling internationally. If you have never been outside of the country with your phone though, it is important to check with your cell phone provider regarding rates and charges outside of your home country. Be sure to ask about both incoming and outgoing calls and text messages, as well as data charges.

2)  Print important documents – In the event that your smart phone does not work (which you won’t know until you arrive), be sure to print off any airline, hotel, train, or ferry confirmations that you have booked in advance.  Another important document you should have a copy of when traveling internationally is your passport. Keep that copy in a separate location from the original. If you passport is in your hand luggage, put it in your checked luggage. In the event that you loose your passport, having a copy is MUCH better than having nothing at all.

3)  Money Money Money – Another international travel tip is how to deal with credit cards and money. First, don’t take too many credit or debit cards with you. One of each will be plenty. Second, be sure to call your bank or credit card company to let them know you will be traveling internationally. Many cards will red flag any unusual activity, especially international purchases. If let them know in advance where you are going, and when you will return, it will prevent them from freezing your account after one purchase.

Finally, know where/when to exchange money. Sometimes your bank can order a specific currency if you request it in advance. There are always exchange places in airports, but they offer the worst exchange rates. There are ATM machines in the arrivals area of every major international airport so you can always take money out there. Either way, be sure to have cash in that currency before you leave the airport.

4)  Adaptors? Converters? Huh??? – Different countries have different electrical outlets and electrical voltages. This means that even with an adaptor, which just changes the plug for the socket, the difference in voltage will cause the socket to blow and kill your item. I personally don’t believe in converters and they sell in stores. I don’t think they work. Some items have converters built in (Apple products are known for this) so you are safe with those. Items like electric shavers, phone chargers, and camera chargers are usually fine as long as you attach an adaptor. Items like hair dryers and flat irons however will not work without a converter (again, I don’t think they work).

The best bet is to not pack those items. Make sure the hotel you are staying at has a hair dryer, and if you really can’t live without your flat iron, pick one up for less than $20 at a local drug store when you arrive at your destination.

Voltages around the world

For more information regarding voltages around the world, check out this site: http://users.telenet.be/worldstandards/electricity.htm

For more on the Travel Tips series, click here.

Ciao,

Sheila

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Travel Tip #2 – Airplane Mode

While there are people out there who have their preferred airline and refuse to travel on any other carrier, most of us just want to find the best deal. Either way, I think it’s safe to say that buying a plane ticket can eat up a chunk of your travel budget. It doesn’t help that airlines are charging for even 1 piece of checked luggage on domestic flights.

Here are some tips when purchasing your plane ticket.

General Information


1) Know where to look – Have I mentioned how much I use kayak.com?? Yes? Okay, I’m going to mention it once again: When you start your flight search, start at kayak.com!! If anything, it will help you narrow down your options by flight times, departure and arrival time, layover times, number of stops, and price. Most importantly, it searches all the search engines for you, including the airline’s own site. Why go anywhere else to start your search??

2) The difference a day makes – If your travel plans are flexible, try searching for flights on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. People are less likely to fly on those days so you can find some good deals. Flights on Friday and Sunday are going to be more expensive, but for most people, it’s hard to avoid flying on those days.

*Bonus* – Word on the street is that the best day/time to purchase your airline ticket is between midnight and 1am on Wednesdays. Also, Tuesday seems to be the busiest day to purchase plane tickets.

2) Know your flight itinerary – It feels like every year, between Thanksgiving and New Years, the news covers stories of stranded travelers in the Northeast trying to get home for the holidays. So why on earth would you buy a ticket with a layover in NYC that time of year?? ALWAYS check the layover city and time before you purchase a ticket with stops. Try and avoid stops in cities like NYC, Washington DC, or Chicago during the winter months (if you actually want to make it home that is). Also, no one wants to sit in the airport for hours, but make sure your layover gives you time to deplane, find your new gate, use the bathroom, and grab a snack before boarding. Of course, your best bet is to fly non-stop (if it’s available). This option may be a little more expensive, so it’s up to you to weigh your cost vs. time preference.

3) Reward yourself – Every airline has it’s own free reward program and if you planning on flying, you should know about them. I, not unlike George Clooney’s character in “Up In The Air”, don’t fly an airline without getting points for it. I’ve got memberships with American, Southwest, Continental, and Delta, just to name a few. These reward programs help you earn miles/points every time you fly which (once you earn enough) you can use to fly for free anywhere that airline flies. The more miles you earn, the higher your membership level gets and the more perks you get! For example many airlines wave the baggage fee for their elite or platinum reward members.

I've been a Southwest Rapid Reward member for over 10 years!

4) Boost your miles – Now, I don’t just get miles/points from the flight itself. I also get points from my credit card when I purchase the flight. See, every reward program partners with a credit card that gives you points for every dollar you spend. When used responsibly (I can’t stress this enough!) you can earn miles on your preferred airline quickly and it doesn’t cost you anything extra. I’ve always had airline reward credit cards and I’ve used those points for roundtrip tickets all over the US and even a couple flights to/from Europe.

*Bonus* – When you join the airline’s reward program, you’ll probably start getting promotional offers for their credit card. These promotions include X number of bonus points for joining or no fee for the first year.

Domestic Flights

1) Two words: Southwest Airlines – I love this airline! You should too, and here’s why…the first TWO bags you check are free, the staff is always friendly, no change fees if you need to adjust your travel plans, fly 8 round trip flights in 24 months and you get a free flight plus drink coupons, you can pick your own seat…oh, i could go on all day. Best of all, if you plan early, you can get some great deals to some amazing destinations. When planning a trip in the US, I always check Southwest first.

My favorite Southwest plane - The Shamu!

2) Watch those fees – The extra fees on airlines have gotten a little out of hand and it feels like there’s a new fee added every day. It is important to familiarize yourself with them so you don’t get surprised later. Sometimes booking a flight on Delta may seem cheaper, but when you add in the checked bag fee, you find that you’re paying more than what was a slightly more expensive Southwest ticket. Other fees to keep in mind include ticket change fees (usually between $75-150), seat selection fees, and inflight food fees.

For the ultimate guide to domestic airline fees, check out this chart I found at SmartTraveler.com.

International Flights


1) London to Rome for £10! – At this point I hope you’re thinking, “Wait, what’s the catch?” The catch is that you will be charged for everything else, including checking in online and water on the plane. Let me introduce you to RyanAir and EasyJet. Two of the top low cost airlines in Europe, these airlines offer REALLY cheap flights in exchange for a sort of al a cart flying experience. I have nothing against either of them, but it’s important that you know what you’re getting into before you book. For me, the whole experience made Southwest look like the Ritz Carlton of airlines, but I flew from London to Dublin to Glasgow for about £30.

*NOTE* – If you’re an American traveling on RyanAir, you MUST get your passport checked and your ticket stamped at the check-in desk BEFORE going through security.

2) Watch those fees (part 2) – The same rules apply to international flights. At face value, RyanAir seems like the cheap option but sometimes with all the fees, you’re better off flying British Airways (if they’re not on strike). Luckily, I have another handy ultimate guide to international airline fees thanks to the folks as SmartTraveler.com. This chart also gives you the American airline’s international baggage fees.

For more on the Travel Tips series, click here.

Ciao,

Sheila

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